The new scandal involving one of Malta’s ministers acting like a child is unsurprising. Not because it is normal for Ministers to act like children (yes, really) but since the Minister was Silvio Schembri, we can’t expect anything less. On Tuesday, Silvio Schembri made a tweet of his visit to Malta Enterprise with the Prime Minister.
In the photo, everyone was close to each other and not wearing masks. A 15-year-old girl replied asking why they weren’t observing social distancing rules. The reply was snarky but still a fair concern. Silvio Schembri replied by sharing a photo she had posted a whole 8 months earlier laying flowers at the memorial of the assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and making fun of her for doing so. In most countries, like the UK, this is a major scandal and leads to resignation, and the Prime Minister apologises, but in Malta, it barely makes the headlines. He quickly deleted the tweet, hopefully after realising what an idiot he had been.
Silvio Schembri seems to never shy away from controversy. Ever since his appointment in January as a Minister, he seems to constantly court negative attention and must be giving the spin doctors in Castille major headaches. Even previously he hasn’t made life easy for himself. In 2017, as a young new MP, he declared only half of his income to Parliament. He made a quick apology and called it a ‘mistake’. Our taxes and VAT pay this man’s wage and no big deal is made of him playing with his finances. Being inaccurate or untruthful when declaring income allows MPs to hide unjustified variations in wealth, potentially caused by corruption.
Since becoming a Minister, things have very much gone off the rails. In mid-March, our Minister for the Economy made a blunder of all blunders. In Parliament, yes Parliament, Schembri tells the House that amid our current crisis, foreigners who lose their jobs would be asked to leave or face deportation. He used ‘go back and ‘country’ in the same sentence. This exercise of dangerous populism backfired massively; ex-pats took to social media to call him racist, bigoted, and disrespectful. Some went so far as to compare his comments to similar ones used in Nazi Germany. After the cyclone of backlash that followed, he let out a very sad and forced apology.
You start to think that if his effort is to attract as much negative attention as possible, he has wholeheartedly succeeded and can now rest down his tools and carry on with his work. Yet again, just last week he was caught using his personal page on behalf of his Ministry, absolutely destroying the line between the two that any healthy democracy holds to. Even worse, he used this page to attack and ridicule a NET News journalist and singled him out for harassment, leading to condemnation by the Institute of Maltese Journalists as the video was edited to put the journalist in a negative light.
What we have here, simply put, is a case of what happens when a politician can do what he wants. Silvio Schembri is only 34, and yet his name is becoming as tainted as any Ministers’ would be at double his age, so much so that unflattering references to Lorry Sant are often made. Apologise, delete, apologise, delete. His arrogance will only lead to more interesting headlines and make more people wonder “Why do we pay his wages?”
Written by: Alexander Jacobsen